Elderly man treks through Macarthur to raise suicide prevention awareness

DETERMINED: Alan Staines OAM, 86, arrives in Camden on Thursday as part of his charity walk from Canberra to the Sydney CBD. Picture: Joshua Bartlett
DETERMINED: Alan Staines OAM, 86, arrives in Camden on Thursday as part of his charity walk from Canberra to the Sydney CBD. Picture: Joshua Bartlett

Most people would consider it crazy to walk from Canberra to the Sydney CBD.

But 86-year-old Alan Staines OAM is trekking more than 300 kilometres to raise awareness for people affected by a loved one taking their own life.

Macarthur residents may have noticed Mr Staines walking alongside the road over the past few days as he powers forward towards the city.

The Al’s Walk for Life campaign began on October 18 and Mr Staines said he walked about 12km each day.

“I try to get up early and start walking before the heat hits,” he said.

“There has been hot days while I was caught in a big storm one day and got drenched.

“But my feet are going pretty well for an 86-year-old.”

He walked through Wollondilly yesterday and is expected to make the trek through Campbelltown tomorrow.

Mr Staines said his trek aimed to raise awareness about support needed for people impacted by suicide.

“More than eight Australians take their own life every day. For every suicide, there is a ripple effect,” he said.

“There are about 135 people around them who are affected, whether it be family, friends, school mates or colleagues.”

“We’ve got to do more to support these people.”

Mr Staines said he hoped to help set up a peer support outreach program for people affected by suicide.

“The problem is a lot of people don’t know what to say to those affected,” he said.

“If we all work together, everyone will get the help they need when they lose a loved one to suicide.”

Mr Staines has volunteered for community groups for more than 30 years.

He is a long-time Salvation Army officer and his list of achievements include founding the suicide prevention bereavement support service Hope for Life.

Mr Staines was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2003 for his tireless efforts in suicide prevention.

He said he became involved in suicide prevention years ago because it was an issue close to his heart.

“My wife Lois and I lost a very close friend to suicide and it had a big influence on us,” he said.

Mr Staines will continue the campaign’s next leg tomorrow when he walks from Camden to Campbelltown.

He is expected to arrive in the Sydney CBD by next Friday, November 16.

For more details, visit the Al’s Walk for Life Facebook page.

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